Songbird Projects Could Pay Off for Hunters in WV

By Chris Lawrence, West Virginia Metro News

FLATWOODS, W.Va. — Wildlife can be a very intricate web. The balance of an ecosystem is among the most perfect balances in all of nature. Therefore, it shouldn’t be shocking when a program which is designed to benefit the tiny cerulean warbler should be of utmost interest to guys trying to kill a wall hanger buck each fall.

The Division of Natural Resources recently announced a five-year plan which calls for timber harvests on several West Virginia Wildlife Management Areas. The harvests will be designed with wildlife management in mind. Mast bearing trees will be enhanced and where there is a lack of the oaks and hickory trees, clear cuts will be engineered to clear the landscape and allow for the early succession habitat. A diverse habitat is critical to a number of species. Despite the plan, the DNR can only access about 175,000 acres. It’s a drop in the bucket compared to the private forest land in West Virginia.

“We are putting our efforts into public lands without being able to direct work on private lands,” said Keith Krantz, Game Biologist for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. “That’s the exciting thing about the golden wing warbler project and the cerulean warbler project. Those are public initiatives to put work on private property which spreads our footprint around much greater.”

The warbler projects include federal money from the Natural Resources Conservation Service which train foresters on the needs of the warbler’s habitat. Then, in turn, there is money available to pay the forester and the landowner when they agree to use the warbler planning model in a private timber harvest.

“Then when they’re out there on a private forest job and they’re writing those plans, they can incorporate those activities into that forest plan,” said Krantz. “They will receive payment for it as will the landowner.”

Suggesting best practices is nothing new. Numerous programs through the years have suggested the best ways to cut timber to benefit wildlife, but there was never any real incentive for a forester or a landowner to implement the practices unless they genuinely had a desire for such a prescription. However, a federally funded stipend enriches the program and makes it a much more lucrative option for those cutting timber on their property.

“That’s what is so exciting,” said Krantz. “Instead of asking a landowner to do these practices out of the goodness of their heart or ordering them to do them, they will be making money doing good conservation practices on their land and the forester is actually making money by doing these practices. That’s exciting because that’s how these plans will actually be put out onto the landscape.”

However, the real hook for sportsmen has nothing to do with the warbler. Krantz said any timber management in the state at this point will be a benefit to a whole host of wildlife species.

“There’s over 70 species of wildlife that utilize different sections of young forest habitat. Ultimately if you do something for one, you’re doing it for most of them.” said Krantz. “While these activities may be highlighting cerulean warblers or golden wing warblers, it’s going to be benefiting woodcock, fawn habitat, it’s going to be benefiting brood habitat for turkeys. It’s going to benefit a whole suite of critters.”

Read the article online.